Typical DMAIC Tools: Defined

There are many tools within the toolbox of a Six Sigma Professional.  The difference between a good practitioner and a great practitioner is the ability to know which tool should be used and when to use it.  This comes with training and extensive experience with Six Sigma Projects.  All of these tools also fit within the DMAIC Process for Project success which is an acronym for: Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, and Control.

The DMAIC Process is a set of 5 phases within a Six Sigma Project used by a company to improve upon the quality of an existing product or service.  It is an acronym for Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, and Control.  There are many tools and methods used within these 5 steps so that any Six Sigma Project can be a success in quality improvement.  Here is an extensive (but not complete) list of tools used within the steps of the DMAIC Process.

•    5 S’s: A list of five Japanese words: seiri, seiton, seiso, seiketsu, and shitsuke, that when translated, mean: Sorting, Straightening, Shine, Standardizing, and Sustaining.  This process is used to organize and maintain workplaces, systems, and processes

•    Action Plan: A written plan used during the Improve Phase that outlines: what countermeasures to implement, how to do them, who will do them, when and where they will be started and completed, and how they will be measured.

•    Affinity Diagram: A graphic representation of the organization of ideas and data discovered through brainstorming.

•    Bar Chart:  A graphic representation made during the Analyze Phase and used to illustrate the difference between groups of data.

•    Brainstorming: A tool used to generate as many ideas or solutions as possible to a problem or issue – no matter how silly, every idea is recorded for the most creative list possible.

•    Cause & Effect Diagram: Also called fishbone or Ishikawa Diagrams, they are used to graphically help a Six Sigma Professional find all of the possible causes for a specific problem.

•    Check Sheet: A tally sheet used to collect data in real time during the Measure Phase.  This is often used with a Pareto Chart in the Analyze Phase.

•    Contingency Table: A statistical table used to study the association between two variables. The rows indicate one variable and the columns indicate the other variable

•    Control Chart: Tools used to determine if a manufacturing or business process is in a state of statistical control –  in other words – stable.  With a control chart, a Six Sigma Professional can determine whether a process’ statistical variation is consistent and in control or is unpredictably variable.  Statistical Variation is completely undesirable within the Six Sigma Methodology.

•    Control Plan: A document that sets the limits within which an improved process should operate for a business owner.  This document is created during the Control Phase, when the Six Sigma Professionals teach key employees within a business to continue to uphold the quality control measures put into place during the improvement Project.

•    Cost Benefit Analysis: A process used to calculate and compare the benefits and costs of a Six Sigma Project.  This can be done before the project is started to make sure it is worthwhile, or after it is done to measure its success.

•    Flowchart: A diagram used to represent a business process.  This chart outlines the steps of the process (boxes), and their order by connecting them with arrows.

•    FMEA (Failure Modes and Effects Analysis): A defined method used to evaluate a process in order to identify its potential failures, and how to prevent them before they have the chance to occur.  FMEA is used to identify the parts of the process that are most in need of change.

•    Force Field Analysis: A specific type of brainstorming used to ponder the ‘drivers’ and ‘restraints’ that might affect progress toward a desired Six Sigma goal.

•    Frequency Distribution/Histogram: The number of occurrences of observational data in order from least to greatest, shown graphically in the form of a Histogram.

•    Gantt Chart: A type of bar chart used to plan the timing required by the separate phases of a project.

•    Interview: Also a technique used within the Measure Phase of the DMAIC

•    Lean Manufacturing:  The process of eliminating the 7 forms of muda (waste) from a business process.  These can be remembered using the pneumonic, TIMWOOD and are as follows: Transportation, Inventory, Motion, Wait, Over-processing, Over-production, and Defects.

•    Mistake Proofing: Also called ‘poka-yoke’, mistake proofing is a process used to eliminate product defects by preventing, correcting, or drawing attention to human errors as they occur.

•    Pareto Chart: A chart that contains both lines and bars, used to find the most frequently occurring defects within a particular company’s process.

•    Pie Chart: A graphic representation of percentages of data also made during the Analyze Phase.  This chart is best suited to discrete data.

•    Prioritization Matrix: A chart often used by a company as a whole to decide which project is most important to start first.

•    Process Capability: The ability of a business process to produce output (products or services) within specification limits that are set by the customer or end user.

•    Process Flowchart: A schematic drawing used within the entire DMAIC process, used to keep the project on track and flowing smoothly.

•    Project Charter: A document that defines and outlines the scope, objectives and participants in a Six Sigma Project.  This is often the first step to a project – used within the Define Phase.

•    Root Cause Analysis: A process used to identify the absolute root cause of a problem in order to absolutely fix said problem forever, rather than continuing to put bandages on symptoms of the root cause masquerading as the real problem.

•    Run Chart: A line graph of observed data within a time frame used to identify and display trends in data over time.

•    Survey: A technique used within the Measure Phase of the DMAIC – often used to determine characteristics the customers or end users want when it comes time to purchase something.

•    Tree Diagram: A visual diagram that looks like a tree, often used to look into the ‘root’ cause of a quality issue within a product or service.